Last week’s Jobs and Skills Summit brought together over 130 business and union leaders for an historic opportunity for a reset in our industrial relations landscape. One desperately needed to reverse the trend of wage stagnation and nationwide skills shortages crippling the delivery of critical public services.
At the close of the two day forum the Albanese Government announced 32 initial outcomes, some of which signal significant reforms to our industrial relations system that will affect millions of workers covered by Fair Work Awards and agreements.
“The Government will update the Fair Work Act to create a simple, flexible and fair new framework”
The Government has committed to updating the Act to introduce the possibility for multi-employer bargaining, a core request of the union movement. While allowing enterprise-level agreements to continue, this new option creates the possibility for whole sectors, such as early childhood education and care, to negotiate uniform agreements that would allow them to harness their collective strength and bargaining power to deliver uniform pay and conditions across their sector.
Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations Tony Burke has also forecasted changes to the Better Off Overall Test (BOOT) with the goal of making the process more straightforward for finalising agreements. We’re yet to see the detail of what this would look like in practice, but we’ll keep you posted.
The Albanese Government also signaled their intent to legislate sunsets for ‘zombie’ agreements. These are relics of the bridging period during the introduction of the Fair Work Act 2009 that have left countless workers on inferior pay and conditions.
New Rights and Conditions Will Make it More Important Than Ever to be Union
The Government will also update the Fair Work Act to provide for better access to flexible working arrangements and unpaid parental leave to better suit the needs of working families and women in particular. We hope to see this take the form of a right, as we know unfettered managerial discretion all too often gets in the way of working people having reasonable requests for flexibility denied arbitrarily.
These and other changes, such as strengthening the compliance and enforcement framework for small claims and imposing civil penalties for breaches by employers, opens up genuine pathways for workers to fight back against wage theft and underpayment of entitlements. These new processes will make the work of unions more crucial than ever. For non-union members, trying to navigate these processes alone or with legal representation is costly, complex, and for many, more trouble than its worth. That’s where we come in.
Your union provides free industrial advice, support and representation to every member as part of your union membership. It’s a cornerstone of our belief in the collective strength of working people banding together.
The Albanese Government has already kickstarted the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations into gear to commence consultation with business and unions on these issues as of this week.
Other key themes included promoting equal opportunity and reducing barriers for entry into workforce participation. You can read the fill list of outcomes here.